Infrastructure bank studied as funding option for link between Vancouver and U.S. northwest
Washington state is exploring whether Canada’s new infrastructure bank could help finance a multibillion-dollar proposal for high-speed rail between Vancouver and the U.S. northwest.
The Trudeau government’s soon-to-be-launched, $35-billion infrastructure bank will seek to use public funds as leverage to attract billions more in private investment for major infrastructure projects, such as bridges, transit systems and rail lines.
The legislative blueprint for the infrastructure bank also allows for the use public money to help bankroll projects “in Canada or partly in Canada,” provided there’s a financial benefit and a physical connection to the country.
The state of Washington has taken notice.
It’s looking at the infrastructure bank as a potential financing option for a long-discussed high-speed rail connection between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, says one of the governor’s senior policy advisers.
Charles Knutson, an adviser for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said Ottawa’s infrastructure bank will be analyzed as a financing option in an ongoing feasibility study for the rail proposal.
Earlier this year, Inslee committed US$1 million towards a cost-benefit analysis of the “ultra high-speed” rail line that would see trains run at speeds of at least 400 km/h. The final report is due in December.
“We’ve heard from some of our Canadian counterparts that that’s a tool that we could explore and we’re open to looking into that further,” Knutson told The Canadian Press in an interview.
“The fact that it is something that could support cross-border projects seems to be a good match, but we’d need to know more.”
He added that the cost-benefit analysis will provide a better sense of the scope of the project and help determine what kinds of financing options would be available.
The high-speed rail link has support from political leaders in the region and from the business community, including high-tech giant Microsoft. They see it as part of a broader plan to deepen regional economic ties and contribute to a Seattle Vancouver technology network dubbed the Cascadia Innovation Corridor.
Knutson, who attended a meeting between Inslee and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May, said they discussed the potential benefits of the highspeed rail project, including construction jobs, better workforce mobility and reduced road traffic.
“They both expressed their support for ultra high-speed rail that could improve connectivity, help grow business opportunities on both sides of the border,” he said.
“They talked about how this is an idea that’s time has come.”
Knutson said he doesn’t specifically recall hearing the infrastructure bank come up during the discussion, but noted other Canadian leaders have spoken about it with Inslee.